Promoting Media Pluralism and Democracy: Commission hosts second Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights

November 17, 2016/ By Press Release

A Eurobarometer survey published today, 17 November, shows that European citizens are worried about the independence of the media; levels of trust in media are low, and citizens are concerned about the impact of online hate speech.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Commissioner Günther Oettinger and Commissioner Věra Jourová will lead the discussions with high level representatives from the media, Member States, European institutions and international organisations, academia, and civil society, on how to safeguard and promote media freedom and pluralism in the EU.

Looking ahead to the Colloquium,First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Free and pluralistic media are the backbone of our democratic societies. Without quality media, public debate cannot flourish. That’s why we need to ensure that journalists can do their jobs in full freedom. Europe’s citizens must be able to trust in the independence of the press if our democracies are to function properly.”

Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Günther Oettinger added: “Quality and fact-based journalism are essential to our democracies. We need the right environment for media to do their work properly. We have recently proposed to strengthen the independence of media regulators as part of the new EU audiovisual rules. I count on the European Parliament and Member States to support this proposal.”

Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová added: “The widespread online hate speech revealed by our Eurobarometer survey highlights the impact of abuse and threats against journalists and new media actors. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Citizens need to feel safe expressing themselves in the online environment and journalists must be able to go about their work free of interference. The Commission will look into the protection of journalists’ sources and the whistleblowing rules in the EU.”

Public and journalist concerns about the independence of the press

Ahead of the Colloquium, the Commission has consulted with the public and conducted a Eurobarometer survey on the topics of media pluralism and democracy. The results are available online and will feed into the discussions. The Eurobarometer figures highlight the following issues:

  • a majority of respondents (57%) do not believe that their national media are free from political or commercial pressure;
  • just over half of respondents (53%) believe their national media is providing trustworthy information;
  • 75% of respondents who are engaging in social media discussions have seen or experienced online abuse, hate speech or threats; and almost half of them (48%) say that they are discouraged from engaging in debates as a result;
  • only 37% of respondents think that the body that oversees audiovisual media in their country is free and independent pressures;
  • levels of trust in the media are lowest among the least well off and least educated.

The Colloquium will tackle several themes:

  • protecting and promoting media freedom and independence from political or financial pressures;
  • empowering journalists and protecting them from threats, physical violence and hate speech;
  • the importance of media literacy and media ethics for political debate and participation;
  • opportunities and challenges of the new media environment, internet platforms and social media.

The Colloquium can be followed live online. Conclusions and proposed actions reflecting the discussions will be finalised and published on the Commission’s Fundamental Rights website afterwards.

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